Two creative and entrepreneurial Israelis have figured out a way to use a DJI drone to herd cattle and even camels.
A DJI drone to herd cattle and even camels
Noam Azran is a modern Israeli cowboy who figured out how to use a DJI drone to herd his cattle so that he can spend more time with his family and same money at the same time.
Israel21c reports that Azran’s company, BeeFree Agro , is developing “Joe,” an autonomous drone system Azran has dubbed the world’s first “click and herd” solution – or, if you will, “Cowboy as a Service.“
Azran is working together with his business partner Dvir Cohen to promote their new DJI drone solution at the Gates conference in Dubai.
The company’s main focus is to use the DJI drones to herd cattle, but they have now tested it on camels as well, and with success.
“They have a problem of camels crossing the highway and people crashing into them,” Azran tells ISRAEL21c. “With a few adjustments, we found that our system can herd camels, too.”
In the Gitex convention’s Supernova startup competition BeeFree Agro took the fourth place bringing home a prize of $10,000.
In the past Azran and Cohen already used drones, but mainly to check to see if the throughs are full of water and to see if the fences were still up. During these drone inspection flights, the duo noticed that cows would move away from the unmanned aircraft and that’s how the idea to herd cattle with a drone was born.
According to Azran, the cows don’t see any difference between a herd dog, cowboy or a drone. The animals instinctively move away from the perceived threat.
Sometimes, they do use the loudspeaker on the drone to add special sound effects such as a barking dog to make the aircraft even more effective.
“What matters is that we move them with the least amount of stress possible. If we try to scare them away, it just creates a mess,” Azran says.
As the duo showed fellow ranchers their DJI drone herding solution, Azran and Cohen quickly realized that not all folks were meant to become professional drone pilots. “We realized that we needed to create an autonomous system if we were going to commercialize this,” Azran said.
The DJI drone herding solution is officially called ‘Joe’ and is controlled by a mobile app. The software solution will determine the most effective herding routes, after which you can launch the drone with one click.
All the cows, or camels for that matter, need to be outfitted with a GPS marker so that the app can track the animals. The operator or rancher can follow the movements through a live video feed in the app.
GPS tags also play a preventative role. “If there’s abnormal behavior in a herd – a predator is coming or someone is trying to move the animals where they shouldn’t be – the rancher will get a notification and can send out a drone. He’ll get video footage so he can see who’s messing with his animals,” Azran explains.
The BeeFree Agro app should eventually work with any off the shelf drone, however current testing has only been done with the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise.
The app does not replace real cowboys Azran points out. “No rancher will want to move a herd when he’s not there,” he says. “We’re giving them the capability of moving their animals with just one cowboy rather than five cowboys with horses and dogs. We’re not trying to disconnect the rancher from his land.”
After launching their service in Israel, BeeFree aims to offer their drone herding service in Texas. The startup hopes to have 10-20 test pilots up and running in 2021.
BeeFree Agro was incorporated in January 2020, raised $200,000 and occupies an office in Rosh Pinah.
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Photos courtesy of Israel21c and BeeFree Agro.